The Simpsons creator Matt Groening says he never had an issue with the show’s inter-ethnic voice acting practices that have only recently come under attack from the left as racist.
His comments come as the popular Fox animated sitcom is in the process of re-casting white actors who voiced the roles of non-white characters. Producers are reassigning popular supporting characters including Dr. Julius Hibbert, Carl Carlson, and Kwik-E Mart proprietor Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
“Times change,” Matt Groening said in a recent interview with the BBC, “but I actually didn’t have a problem with the way we were doing it. All of our actors play dozens of characters each, it was never designed to exclude anyone.”
For years, The Simpsons resisted calls to recast these roles. But social justice pressure began building in earnest with the 2018 documentary The Problem With Apu, which questioned the show’s portrayal of Indian people.
The pressure climaxed with the Black Lives Matter protests and riots last year, prompting Fox to issue a statement saying it would no longer allow white actors to voice non-white characters on the show.
When asked if he regrets the show’s initial resistance, Groening replied: “At a certain point it doesn’t matter what you say. You’re going to be attacked by whoever, you know?”
He added: “We’re not going out of our way to comfort bigots. On the other hand, if you do any kind of gesture and people perceive a weakness, you’ll be criticized.”
The Simpsons has recently recast two black roles — Dr. Julius Hibbert, who was voiced by Harry Shearer, will now be played by black actor Kevin Michael Richardson, while Carl Carlson, previously voiced by Hank Azaria, will be played by black actor Alex Désert.
Azaria previously said that he will no longer play Apu, but producers have not announced a replacement.